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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 11:36 GMT
Pastrana pushes terrorism fight
Helicopter and troops
The Colombian military are getting restless
By Jeremy McDermott in Bogota

President Andres Pastrana of Colombia is in Washington to ask President George W Bush for more military aid in the cause of fighting terrorism.

During a five-day visit to the United States, President Pastrana is insisting that the drug trafficking conflict in his country amounts to "narco-terrorism" and demands an international response.

His government's peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, who are on the US list of foreign terrorist organisations, is frozen, and the rebels are refusing to come back to the negotiating table.

The Colombian armed forces, never happy that the FARC have been given a huge area of territory as a safe haven for peace talks, are calling the rebels narco-terrorists and insist they can take back the guerrilla zone within hours.

Armed Colombian groups
FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia): The largest and oldest group
ELN (National Liberation Army): Smaller and Cuban-inspired
AUC (United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia): Far-right paramilitary group

Analysts believe that circumstances are forcing President Pastrana into the corner he has been trying to avoid for the last three years - all-out war.

After devoting much of his presidency to peace talks with the FARC, the levels of violence and kidnapping are higher than ever before and the positions of the government and guerrilla negotiators further apart.

Warring factions

The United States has never been thrilled with President Pastrana's granting of a 42,000-square-kilometre zone to the FARC for peace talks, saying that guerrillas have used it to build up their military strength and expand their role in the drugs trade.

The US ambassador to Bogota, Anne Patterson, has recently hardened her stance on Colombia's warring factions, likening them to Osama Bin Laden and stating that the US would want to extradite certain guerrilla and paramilitary leaders.

Boy with posters of rebel leaders
The rebels have been fighting for almost 40 years
Two other organisations - the smaller National Liberation Army and the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia - are also on the US list of foreign terrorist organisations, so President Bush will be hard pushed to deny President Pastrana military aid to fight the rebels should he request it when they meet on Sunday.

There seem to be few other options open to President Pastrana.

See also:

21 Oct 01 | Americas
Fresh violence kills 30 in Colombia
11 Oct 01 | Americas
Massacres shake Colombia peace deal
06 Oct 01 | Americas
Colombia peace talks rescued
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